I'd like to open this entry with a disclaimer: I have no objections to working outside the home. In fact, I believe I'd be bored and rather miserable as a stay-at-home. I have always felt that I need to contribute to the world at large, and I invested a great deal into getting a college degree so I could do just that. So to start, I don't mind working. The issue is balancing it with having a life. Because jobs take up an awful lot of your life, and you have to set boundaries with how much of your life you want to give to your work - much like everything else.
I never wanted my job to be the core of my life. There are a lot of people out there that are defined by their work, and I've known all along that I don't want to be one of them. To me, I have a job to serve my life. It's how I channel my knowledge, experience and skills to the world, and in return it financially supports my life. That's it. It's not who I am. It's not my sole purpose in life. It's not the whole of my existence. It's one part of my life, one part of the whole that makes me.
The challenge is keeping it one part of life because work, much like everything else, wants to be the center. The fact that it's our financial foundation is a binding factor that makes work one of the "immovable objects" in our lives, and the trick is how to keep reshaping that object into something that helps rather than hurts. Our personal lives change over time and so do our jobs - even if you work in the same place throughout your career, I can guarentee that the job itself will change as time goes on. Duties come and go, and more is always added. I can attest to this by experience. I've been working in the same job for over thirteen years, but it most certainly IS NOT the job I was hired to do. It bears absolutely no resembelance to what it was the first day I walked in. It's even been reclassified twice to accomodate for the drastic changes over the years. Likewise, my personal life has drastically changed in those years as well. And the ongoing challenge is how to keep work in balance in your life with both are constantly changing forces.
It's tough, and it's something that constantly has to be managed. I've had to make a lot of adjustments in the past three years alone, as my job duties quadrupled at the same time that my in-laws moved to town and my writing started to get published more widely. In fact, I was under a therapist for a year to help me manage all of the changes sweeping through my life. It would have been nice if all of these things could have happened, say, over the space of five years - but it was more like five months. I made it, but I'm not afraid that I'm still on that curve of balancing my changed work situation and my changed life situation. That is, in fact, part of what spurred my resolution to work on the issue of balance. It was realizing that while the major adjustments are done (and have been for a while), some tweaking to the details needs to happen. In fact, tweaking is something that probably needs to be done, well, more frequently than I have.
I think the big thing for me right now is balancing my increased work duties with my writing. I could easily stay glued behind a computer all my waking hours between the job, then coming home to work on writing promotion and working on new projects to keep my writing in motion. While I love my writing, I realized it had elevated itself to "work" in my life, and I always said that when it was more labor than enjoyment, it was time to make some adjustments. I can't and won't work 100% of the time. I want free time with Rick and the birds, with family and friends, with occasional volunteer projects at church, or with hobbies or just being lazy, and I will have it. I need time off, and I believe that getting sick with that virus before the holidays was the wake up call that made me realize I spend too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself: spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally. I have a full life and that's fine, but I need to get it in order and make sure there's a place for everything - and especially a space for taking care of myself, which I neglected to an almost dangerous place a few weeks ago. I really downplayed that here and in my social media posts, but the truth is that I was a bigger wreck than I let on, and it downright scared me. I was ill and distressed to the point of being almost non-functional for about 36 hours. Not long, but long enough to get through. It was time to heal more than my body. My mind and soul needed healing too.
Thankfully, I had some time off for the holidays to take stock of how to do this, and the work-life issue was primary amongst my concerns. I can't change my job, but I can look for ways to get better organized and to get things done better and more efficiently. As for my writing, I looked into some publicity options that included writing more articles and short stories, which allows me to continue producing new work that gains publicity for my published books. It's channeling into doing more of what I love, which is creating new work. It takes the "work" out of the writing and puts it back in the place of being "fun." And that's what it's all about: being entertaining and fun for me and my readers.
I think we all get knocked off kilter every now and then, and it seems that the work-life balance is usually where it's most likely to happen. We just have to stop and take stock every now and then to make sure we're keeping work in it's proper place in our life, and not letting it morph or grow into a trap. Because when we feel trapped, that's when it's gotten too far out of balance. I'm happy to report that I do feel much better and I continue to heal from my illness of a few weeks ago. There are still some struggles, but I take it a day at a time and I believe I'm finding a better way to have my life with all the joy and fullness I'm meant to have.
That's all today. Take care. I hope you have a great week.
I was home sick with a sinus infection today and decided to watch the midday news. On it, they had a report on a state where sending children to school at age 5 is optional - they can do it, but aren't required to do it until the child is six years old. They touted this story as "does it give children an academic edge to wait a year?" but in reality, it was all parents saying "my child is too immature and I just think they need another year at home before starting school."
This reminded me of what happened at my church recently when we lost our pastor and associate pastor last spring. When we asked about forming a committee to find a new pastor, the Synod told us to wait a few months because "the congregation needs time to grieve, heal and deal with the loss of their pastors."
Really? Time to adjust and heal? Time to get ready? Folks, I'm going to be bluntly honest with you - I call bullcrap on that. I'd use the alternate phrase, but I strive to keep this blog PG-13 rated. But you get the point. I think this is all nonsense. And I will be glad to tell you why.
Reality rarely gives us time to ease into adjustments. Sure, sometimes we choose to make changes, but sometimes things happen with no warning and we're left with no choice but to accept it. There is no adjustment period. There is no "time out" for emotional healing. Reality takes an anvil to your life and you have no choice but to get up and start putting the pieces back together before it beats you further and turns those pieces into confetti that you can't do anything with. The illness often strikes without warning. Jobs change. People move on or worse
yet, die. Life can turn around with one phone call. I've seen it happen in the blink of an eye and can tell you from experience that we should take nothing for granted and look for the possibilities in every situation.
Do you know how much time I was given to "adjust and deal" with my job move two years ago? Absolutely none! It was welcome, now get to work. You have regulations to draft. You have things to integrate into the database. You have forms to reformat and 42 boxes of files to scan into our database and 2 websites to help our IT staff set up for your programs because you're the one that knows this stuff and we can't help you because we need YOU to help US get it integrated into our system and tell us what it is so we can tell you how it will be from now on. The move was about a third of the work. There was plenty of heavy lifting after that, so to speak, and they made it clear that they expected me to not only rise to that, but to everything else set before me. And you know what? I did it. Sure, there were times when I broke down and came home saying "I can't DO all of this!" But I went back the next day and with enough "next days" and more hard work than I ever thought I was capable of, it got done and continues to get done every day.
And you know, a funny thing happened. I found the courage to submit my writing to epublishers again and by golly, two books got accepted. What the hell, I thought. I moved two programs. Why can't I publish two books? Why can't I be an independent author? I've always wanted to be a writer and this is my chance to be one. And I did it. I keep writing because I learned to step out and be bold and proactive in pursuing my writing goals from being pulled up by my hair at my day job. Reality punched me in the gut in one area, and by rising to that challenge I found the courage to take on the challenge of pursuing a personal dream in another area. Life's funny like that if you learn how to accept your situation and take advantage of every opportunity you find, no matter how big or small.
My point here is not to say nah nah, look at me and how I made it work. I hesitate to say it "worked" even at this point. Rather, I see the situation as "I continue to work hard and grow" because I am still learning and growing. It's a lifelong process. I still learn at work, and I'm still working on new writing projects and to build an audience for my published work. It's still a lot of hard work on both fronts. My point is that reality doesn't hit the pause button to pat you on the back and say "there there, take some time to eat ice cream and watch reruns of Supernatural (or whatever show you like) until you feel strong enough to deal with this." Reality is a witch (another PG-13 term for what I really think it is). It just happens and it doesn't care what you like or feel about anything.
I was raised with the "if the Lord brings you to it, then He brings you through it" truth, but this is a truth that we have to learn. It's not something ingraned in our psyche. Fear and helplessness are ingraned in our psyche. We have to learn that faith that we can face it. We have to learn to find that strength within ourselves to rise to what life brings. We have to learn to do the hard work, and to face the pain and struggles with the courage of a lion even if we feel like jelly inside. We learn by standing up to it and working through it. And folks, that doesn't come from taking an ice-cream and Supernatural rerun festival break to sob and wipe our tears while complaining of the injustice of it all. Life isn't fair. We have to learn to stand in the face of that. We have to work with the situation and figure out how to pluck out the opportunities in this "not fair" situation to work it out for our good and put ourselves on a journey to something better in the end.
We can heal. We can adjust. But more often than not, we have to do it on our feet. We have to heal while we move forward becauser stagnation brings further consequences and suffering that are completely unnecessary and can be avoided by acceptance and hard work.
So no, I call bullcrap on the "wait until your ready" mentality. Reality doesn't care if you're ready. It just happens. We do ourselves a greater favor by standing up to it sooner rather than later.
That's all today. Take care.
Well, as irony would have it; it seems Rick's illness had a viral component that brought it out and I caught it yesterday. After a weekend with both of us sick, I realized that there are two rules for dealing with someone who's sick:
1. Never try to force feed them, especially if it has a gastrointestinal base. Believe me, whatever you fear might happen from not eating will be nothing compared to what will happen if you force them to eat; and
2. Don't pepper them with a million questions. People in general are too addicted to asking questions. Please please please - limit the questions as much as possible. You'd be surprised at how much you can discover for yourself if you put your brain on things for 5 minutes. In fact, this is a good overall rule even when everybody is perfectly healthy.
That being said, I will warn you that there is a virus going around and it's absolutely VICIOUS. Neither of us has been this sick in a very long time. We're healing, albeit slowly. This is definitely one that we (and our septic system) will remember for a long time.
Take care all, and take precautions. I know it's winter and illness is lurking but the proper precautions can save your grief. Wash hands, clean up, flu shots, and etc.
More later. Bye!
December 6 is always a tough day for me because my maternal grandmother died on that date in 1987. I’ve lost many people, but that date stings every year – no doubt because of the holidays that wrap around this month. Losing people is always tough, but losing them during the holiday seems to cut a bit deeper. It’s something you feel more. I usually don’t talk about it much and do my best to be a “big girl” and move on, as is expected.
Until this year. I know it’s been 24 years, but I’m all grown up (middle age now, in fact), I’ve found my voice, and now there’s this great thing called the Internet where I can post things. And now, you’re going to hear ALL about it.
One of the reasons why dealing with death over the holidays is tough is, naturally, because the entire world is celebrating, and you just don’t feel it. A hole has been ripped in your life and, as I said in my last entry, a date in red on the calendar doesn’t hasten the healing of the heart. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said death is unnatural because people weren’t created to die, and I believe it. Death is such an aberration to our spirit, and that abnormality is especially evident in a season where we celebrate the birth of our Savior and eternal life. Emotions know no season and if they take a smack then nothing is going to expedite the healing process. Here they parallel the body. Don’t believe me? Burn your hand, break a bone, or sprain something today and see if you’re healed by Christmas.
The reason I sound cynical here is because of the other reasons why death is hard to deal with during the holidays. Yes, the whole world is celebrating, and they don’t want to stop –not for you, or for any pesky little problem like (gasp) death. They want to be happy and have fun and by God, you aren’t going to stop them. I thought perhaps it was my still child-like perspective on the world in 1987, but in the 24 years since then I still hold to the opinion that:
1. People don’t cope with death well, especially during the holidays;
2. The dumbest things are said at visitations and funerals; and
3. People can be incredibly selfish, rude, and insensitive in their desire to create “the perfect holiday” (which we have already acknowledged won’t happen).
I thought it was because people kept telling me to “cheer up” and “be glad the holidays are here to help ease the pain.” I thought it was because people kept telling me to “grow up” and“get over it because it was just a grandparent.” I thought it was because people kept saying “you mother has it worse - don’t you owe it to her to get over it and try to make Christmas good for her?” Yes, people really said these things, without exaggeration. But the problem is that I learned it wasn’t just me when Rick’s grandmother died on December 21, 2000. I warned Rick of the incredible stupidity and insensitivity he was about to experience and lo and behold if he didn’t see I was right within 10 minutes when a lady walked up to us with a huge smile plastered on her face and said “What a wonderful time to go to Heaven! She gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with him face to face. But oh, your poor father, this must be awful for him. So, what are you doing to celebrate?”
If looks could kill, the one Rick and I gave that lady would have made her the funeral home’s next customer. I noticed she hurried away and we’ve never seen her again.
I wish I could say I’m embellishing these comments, but I’m not. In fact, I’m fighting a rare urge to name names here so the whole world will know who the igits are. But I’m not going to do it because the point of this entry isn’t to debate right and wrong. It’s to acknowledge that people do die during this joyous time of year and to guide you toward the proper way to help somebody that’s suffering a loss during the holidays. And so, I have offered my experiences to give a few tips on how to best console people that are grieving over the holidays.
I’ve already hit on the first one. Emotional healing knows no season, so please don’t try to push people into celebrating if they don’t feel like it. Not for their sake, or the sake of the kids, or the family, or anybody. My mother and Rick’s father tried to put on that “brave face for the family,” and let me tell you – it didn’t work. Grief was the pink elephant in the room and everybody saw it by Christmas. Not only are you headed for disaster by not allowing them time to grieve, but you risk more damage by your selfish demand that the holidays will go on, come hell or high water. So please, back off. If they don’t want to put up a tree this year, go caroling or attend parties, don’t make them. Back off and give them the space they need. If you feel you absolutely must do something, do it in more practical ways that are not holiday related, like offering to bring them a meal, help them clean the house, or take care of the kids one evening. Believe me, they will appreciate you not force feeding them to a world high on Christmas more than any present under the tree.
Second, please use discernment. Everything that flies through your head doesn’t need to fly out of your mouth, and as the non-grieving party you have a higher obligation to put a lasso on your tongue. This is true always, but it’s absolutely essential at visitations and funerals. This is not the time to be witty, wise, or philosophical. There are people trained for that, so leave it to them: You know, the pastors, priests, rabbi’s, therapists, psychologists, and others trained in the religious or mental health fields. I have no doubt that losing a parent is much worse than losing a grandparent, but that’s an inappropriate thing to say to ANYBODY, especially to a 12 year old that’s confused, hurting, and doesn’t know what to do. Logic doesn’t work in highly emotional situations like this, so don’t go there. In fact, when it comes to funerals then the less you say, the better. Just say “I’m sorry for your loss” and let it go. People in these situations don’t want a dissertation on dealing with grief or a lecture on getting over it. They want people to acknowledge how they feel and have respect for it.
Third, don’t take it personally. People are already stressed out this time of year and that tends to work on nerves. Unfortunately, sorrow and anger are part of the grieving process which can strip nerves raw and increase emotional outbursts. I know it’s awkward if somebody burst into tears when a carol comes on in a store, or shouts insults at the mall Santa, but unfortunately seasonal things that seem benign to most can trigger deep grief responses in those dealing with loss. I know from experience that it can be extremely frustrating to watch the world celebrate when a huge hole has just been ripped in your life, and sometimes the strangest things knock holes in those walls of restraint. Don’t make a scene bigger. Simply try to diffuse the situation as smoothly as possible, remove the person from it, and do your best to control your emotions so you can help them control theirs. They’re weak right now, so give them the gift of being strong until they are healed and able to be strong on their own again.
I have a word for those of you that have recently lost loved ones, or that have lost them this year and are facing your first holiday season without them. Please know that you aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you are going through a natural process. Understand that it will get easier, but it can only get easier if you take the time to go through the grieving process in your own timing. So don’t try to be brave or try to sweep it under the rug because it’s the holidays. Some people don’t get it, but that’s not your problem. They will one day because we all lose loved ones and have to deal with that empty seat at the holiday table eventually. The holidays come around every year so believe me, there will be more chances to “do the holidays” later. It’s ok to take a year off if you just can’t face it this year. It doesn’t make you Scrooge. It makes you a human being – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Finally I’d like to say, for the record, that all the people that said those rude, insensitive things to me in 1987 and to Rick in 2000 deserve a smack. So I’m saying it now, on the INTERNET, to the WHOLE WORLD, on MY WEBSITE right now. Consider this your virtual kick.
Wow, I do believe that’s something like Nana would say.